The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Administration should be transparent, release endowment

Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil.

In the time leading up to Day for Guilford on March 30, several concerned alumni released statements to Guilford College demanding an open endowment and divestment from fossil fuels, the prison-industrial complex and support to Israel. The original open letter, posted on the Day for Guilford page on March 21, called for a boycott of donations to the College until investment information was released.

Some Guilford student organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Integrity for Guilford, have joined the alumni in demanding greater clarity from the administration. Instead of giving to the College or individual departments, the students prefer that donations go into an escrow fund organized by the alumni, which will be donated to Guilford once the boycotters feel the College is responding fully to their concerns.

“For me, investing pieces of the College’s endowment in fossil fuels, the prison system and Israeli companies and simultaneously advertising (while) considering itself to be an inclusive and social justice oriented campus is unacceptable hypocrisy,” said senior and Integrity for Guilford organizer Noah McDonald in an email interview. “Therefore, I would say that the core values of the College, not just Integrity for Guilford, speak to the alumni demands.”

It may be both the Guilford alumni and the administration that have turned a blind eye to the reality of the situation. While the administration and concerned students seem to be in unison on the importance of clarity and honoring Guilford’s values in the endowment, there is an apparent disconnect over the investments themselves.

The concerned alumni described the lack of communication between the two groups in a document entitled “Why Should #GuilfordDivestNow?” which was shared on the Concerned Alums for Guilford Facebook page.

“We cannot, despite our best efforts, find any accessible published statements from the Board of Trustees on their stance, efforts or really anything on the matter whatsoever,” according to the document.

Although the administration has stated that Guilford is not financially tied to fossil fuels or prisons, they had not released the endowment for all members of the College community to examine before Guilford College President Jane Fernandes released the information in an open letter last week.

“We do not own any prison stocks nor do any of our index funds own prison stocks,” said Vice President of Administration and Finance Leonard Sippel. “Secondly, the only energy stock that we own is a non-fossil fuel (green) energy company.”

Regardless of Guilford’s investments in prisons and fossil fuels, which may be none at all, the College has yet to address investments in Israel.

However, the College does actively participate in practices that are friendly to the environment and incarcerated individuals.

Guilford runs the sustainable farm, which is committed to reducing food waste and promoting healthy agriculture, and has built one of the largest solar-powered hot water systems in the nation, according to Fernandes’ open letter. Guilford also gives incarcerated individuals the opportunity to take college courses and the LEED Green Associate exam to prepare them for employment after release.

“We intend to work closely with the Alumni Board Task Force on Socially Responsible Investment and others as we seek a sense of the College around the question of our investment policy,” said Fernandes in an email interview. “The path we will pursue is to create a new socially responsible investment policy using the best information available and then implement it.”

But this isn’t meant as a criticism of the alumni and students demands. Guilford should always make the use of the endowment transparent so that donors, alumni, students and faculty can see how the College is investing in the global community. After all, complacency never leads to progress.

On the other hand, Guilford’s use of its endowment appears on the surface to be aligned with the College’s values and the student population. But we’ll begin to know for sure when community members review the open endowment and when the administration releases specific details regarding how much money the College has invested in each of its accounts.

Bradley Anderson, president of the Alumni Association, expressed his views on the boycott on the Day for Guilford Facebook page.

“While I completely agree with concerns raised over investments and I respect the fact that some feel a need to withhold giving, I cannot in good conscience deprive Guilford of critically needed funds to continue its transformational work,” said Anderson.

If the administration really has nothing to hide, then they will make the endowment open to the community and show the magnitude of each investment. If the students and alumni really care about the school, they will donate to Guilford or the escrow fund instead of denying the College money it needs for reasons that may have no factual standing.

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Dalton Kern, Staff Writer

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The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
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    Dave DobsonApr 8, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I think there’s an unwarranted tone of hostility in this article, and a false representation that Guilford is hiding information. I worked with a group of student on a Jan Term project in 2013 who were trying to figure out whether Guilford was potentially invested in industries counter to our mission, and if so, how to encourage the Board of Trustees to take action to divest. They were put in contact with Guilford’s endowment managers and granted very detailed access to the endowment holdings. They presented these to the community on several occasions. They were concerned with a slightly different set of investments (e.g. military equipment, tobacco, and companies that promote global warming) than are covered in this current discussion, but they got the information they asked for, and their proposals were discussed by the board (and advocated by some trustees) on at least two occasions that I observed.

    Guilford has not always given me the information I would like to see, but in this case, I am fairly certain it withheld nothing from the group I worked with, and instead provided far more access to details of our investments than most other institutions where similar groups of students and alumni advocated for various kinds of divestment. I think this article misrepresents that history to the Guilfordian’s discredit.